Official Secrets Act 1911

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
Citation1911 c. 28


Official Secrets Act, 1911

(1 & 2 Geo. 5.) CHAPTER 28.

An Act to re-enact the Official Secrets Act, 1889, with Amendments.

[22nd August 1911]

Be it enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

S-1 Penalties for spying.

1 Penalties for spying.

(1) If any person for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State—

(a ) approaches or is in the neighbourhood of, or enters any prohibited place within the meaning of this Act; or

(b ) makes any sketch, plan, model, or note which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy; or

(c ) obtains or communicates to any other person any sketch, plan, model, article, or note, or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy;

he shall be guilty of felony, and shall be liable to penal servitude for any term not less than three years and not exceeding seven years.

(2) On a prosecution under this section, it shall not be necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of any particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State, and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, or his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State; and if any sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information relating to or used in any prohibited place within the meaning of this Act, or anything in such a place, is made, obtained, or communicated by any person other than a person acting under lawful authority, it shall be deemed to have been made, obtained, or communicated for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State unless the contrary is proved.

S-2 Wrongful communication, &c. of information.

2 Wrongful communication, &c. of information.

(1) If any person having in his possession or control any sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information which relates to or is used in a prohibited place or anything in such a place, or which has been made or obtained in contravention of this Act, or which has been entrusted in confidence to him by any person holding office under His Majesty or which he has obtained owing to his position as a person who holds or has held office under His Majesty, or as a person who holds or has held a contract made on behalf of his Majesty, or as a person who is or has been employed under a person who holds or has held such an office or contract,—

(a ) communicates the sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information to any person, other than a person to whom he is authorised to communicate it, or a person to whom it is in the interest of the State his duty to communicate it, or

(b ) retains the sketch, plan, model, article, note, or document in his possession or control when he has no right to retain it or when it is contrary to his duty to retain it:

that person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.

(2) If any person receives any sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information, knowing, or having reasonable ground to believe, at the time when he receives it, that the sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information is communicated to him in contravention of this Act, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, unless he proves that the communication to him of the sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information was contrary to his desire.

(3) A person guilty of a misdemeanour under this section shall be liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine, or to both imprisonment and a fine.

S-3 Definition of prohibited place.

3 Definition of prohibited place.

3. For the purposes of this Act, the expression ‘prohibited place’ means—

a ) any work of defence, arsenal, factory, dockyard, camp ship, telegraph or signal station, or office belonging to His Majesty, and any other place belonging to His Majesty used for the purpose of building, repairing making, or storing any ship, arms, or other materials or instruments of use in time of war, or any plans or documents relating thereto; and
b ) any place not belonging to His Majesty where any ship arms, or other materials or instruments of use in time of war, or any plans or documents relating thereto, are being made, repaired, or stored under contract with, or with any person on behalf of, His Majesty, or otherwise on behalf of His Majesty; and
c ) any place belonging to His Majesty which is for the time being declared by a Secretary of State to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this section on the ground that information with respect thereto, or damage thereto, would be useful to an enemy; and
d ) any railway, road, way, or channel, or other means of communication by land or water (including any works or structures being part thereof or connected therewith), or any place used for gas, water, or electricity works or other works for purposes of a public character, or any place where any ship, arms, or other materials or instruments of use in time of war, or any plans or documents relating thereto, are being made, repaired, or stored otherwise than on behalf of His Majesty, which is for the time being declared by a Secretary of State to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this section, on the ground that information with respect thereto, or the destruction or obstruction thereof, or interference therewith, would be useful to an enemy.
S-4 Attempts to commit offence, or incitement to commit offence, under Act.

4 Attempts to commit offence, or incitement to commit offence, under Act.

4. Any person who attempts to commit any offence under this Act, or incites, or counsels, or attempts to procure another person to commit an offence under this Act, shall be guilty of felony or of a misdemeanour according as the offence in question is felony or misdemeanour, and on conviction shall be liable to the same punishment, and to be proceeded against in the same manner, as if he had committed the offence.

S-5 Person charged with felony under Act may be convicted of misdemeanour under Act.

5 Person charged with felony under Act may be convicted of misdemeanour under Act.

5. Any person charged with an...

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